Three activists from feminist group Femen made a spectacular intrusion on Congress in the middle of a lawmakers’ session Wednesday morning, baring their chests and shouting a pro-abortion slogan from the spectators’ gallery.
The three women – among whom was Lara Alcázar, the leader of Femen in Spain – began their protest when Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón stood up to answer a question put to him by another deputy.
As he started to speak, cries suddenly rang out of “Abortion is sacred” from the three women, who had also painted slogans on their stomachs. The shouts continued until all three of the activists were forcibly removed from the parliament chamber by staff.
Although Gallardón was not due to speak about abortion on Wednesday, the justice minister has been talking about making changes to legislation in Spain regarding the issue since his conservative Popular Party (PP) was voted into office in November 2011.
Gallardón has suggested that he wants to reverse legislation passed by the previous Socialist administration in 2010, which allows women to opt for an abortion during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, with no questions asked. He has voiced his support for a return to legislation that was first passed in 1985, which would eliminate abortion on demand, as well as ban fetal abnormality as a condition for granting a termination.
Congress Speaker Jesús Posada looked on somewhat helplessly as the three women began their protest, only telling staff to “proceed with caution” with removing the activists.
While one of the women clung to the rail at the edge of the spectators’ gallery, the other two were balancing quite precariously on top of it, high above the heads of the deputies seated below.
It took around a minute-and-a-half to remove the activists, who were taken into police custody. Following usual procedures, they are due to be transferred to a police station and then go before a judge, who will decide the course of action to take.
When he retook the floor, Gallardón first questioned the activists’ slogan of “abortion is sacred,” describing it as “impossible to understand,” before then going on to criticize the ripple of applause for the protestors that came from members of the United Left (IU) bloc.
Cayo Lara, the IU coordinator, later spoke during the congressional session to voice his support for the defense of “the right to a termination.”
Addressing the incident in the hallways of Congress, Gallardón described the protest as “a total lack of respect for popular sovereignty, as embodied in Congress.”